Resisting the Language of Occupation

Tajamul Islam & Mudasir Ali Lone

“We cannot allow the occupier to dictate what to speak and when to speak. Being free is our religion and its consciousness is our survival”  – Manan Wani, former doctoral student, militant (Hizb-ul-Mujahideen); martyred on 11th October 2018

Paramilitary patrolling the streets of Kashmir [Image AP/Dar Yasin]

When you are under occupation, the first thing that is regularized to serve it is language. Manipulating history, twisting facts, changing narratives, normalizing an aggressive discourse and then censoring people’s own discourse are all meant to serve the consolidation of an illegal occupation. The occupation vociferously invests into changing the patterns of thinking and perpetuates an aggressive discourse as common sense. Kashmir issue is one of the oldest conflicts in contemporary history having its roots in the ‘partition of India’ in 1947. As the post-partition phenomenon, Kashmir also got divided into two; one under the administration of Pakistan called as Azad Kashmir and another under Indian occupation still battling for its existence. The whole state of Jammu & Kashmir was up in arms against the feudal Dogra regime by 1947, the movement had been going on since 1931 and had also manifested in many uprisings even before that, like the Shawl Weavers Movement in 1865, Silk Factory Strike in 1924 and so on.

The accession of Kashmir to India has always been controversial. The claim that Kashmir acceded to India is one of the most absurd claims out there. It is not Kashmir or Kashmiris, but a Dogra regime, a quintessential Hindutva state that acceded to India under duress. Maharaja Hari Singh, the Dogra ruler, who made this forcible merger possible, exercised no influence over his subjects either in Jammu or in Kashmir. That is one of the reasons he was neglected soon after the illegal accession, by the people with whom he entered this agreement.

Ever since then, India has chosen the whims of an autocratic and despotic Dogra ruler over the will of the people of Kashmir to legitimize the brazen military occupation that started on 27th of October 1947. The same Dogra regime in cahoots with various Indian Hindutva groups had also orchestrated an oft-forgotten Jammu Massacre in 1947, leading to the killing/disappearance of half a million people from the region

The seeds for Azad Kashmir were laid by the Poonch Rebellion, an internal rebellion of the people of Poonch Jagir against the Dogra regime. Kashmir became an issue of contention when Maharaja Hari Singh arbitrarily decided to accede to India in 1947 causing a backlash in the Muslim majority state that eventually led to First Kashmir War between India and Pakistan. Afterward, a separate United Nations resolution came into place making accession to India or Pakistan conditional to a plebiscite. Ever since then, this long pending demand has never been fulfilled by India.

The Line of Control that came into existence is a colonial phenomenon, dividing families and destroying ethnicities and as such people of Kashmir do not recognize it. Line of Control has since then served to ‘otherise’ the self as an extension of colonial discourse. The armed struggle in Kashmir which started in 1990s is an offshoot of this occupation that brutalized the identity of Kashmiri people and it was not only confined to the region occupied by India, but thousands of people picked up arms from the other side of Line of Control as well and crossed the borders to question and put an end to this illegal border dividing families and oppressing communities. Subsequently, a new vocabulary was popularized to demonize those crossing back as ‘infiltrators’, ‘foreign militants’, ‘insurgents’, ‘terrorists’, etc. A cursory view of those ‘foreign militants’ who have been killed in the ongoing struggle makes it clear that these are the same people whose families were badly affected by this division. Rebels from the Azad Kashmir can’t be called foreigners by any stretch of the imagination; they come from the same state, the same land that has been divided by the illegal and oppressive Line of Control. An illegal line that divides this entire region can’t be allowed to dictate that those living on the two sides of the same land are now foreigners to each other.

There have been allies in this conflict who came from neighboring regions to help the people just as there are always allies in any legitimate cause. The prerogative to decide who’s an ally in this war against occupation lies exclusively with the people of Kashmir. As a foreign entity, the Indian state has no locus to decide who’s a foreigner in Kashmir and who’s not. People in Kashmir rush to encounter sites to help the militants escape a cordon laid by Indian forces irrespective of where they come from. The people of Kashmir have always established through their actions, sentiments and emotions, the acceptance of rebels from outside the state of J&K (from outside both PaK and IoK), the same needs to be reflected in language too and there’s a need to break away from the Indian occupational constructs of native and foreign vis-à-vis Kashmir. People need to be conscious of the language used in the day to day life associated with this occupation. The first freedom lies in liberating language from the distortions done by colonial discourse. It needs to be understood that it is Kashmiris, who decide the allies in this resistance and it’s them alone who should choose the language associated with it.

Tombstone of a Martyr in Srinagar [Image: Pulitzer Center]

If there’s anyone who is a foreigner in Kashmir, it is the Indian state, its armed forces, and all its functionaries; the ones repeatedly rejected by people of Kashmir through everyday rebellions against it. The colonial discourse that brands armed rebels fighting against Indian occupation as terrorists stand neither common sense nor the litmus test of ‘terrorizing the masses’. Kashmiris prefer the term ‘Mujahid’ for the armed rebels and when they die they are called Shaheed (martyr). For Kashmiris, they are the rebels against tyranny and witnesses of resistance. All over Kashmir, the rebels are buried in various Mazaar-e-Shuhada (Martyr’s Graveyards) and their funeral processions are a spectacular rejection of Indian tyranny and an assertion of their firm unity against the occupation. Therefore, thrusting Line of Control between people is the real aggression and needs to be rejected and a ground for a full-fledged plebiscite needs to be made so that people can live peacefully.

The Indian state has been using terms like ‘cross-border terrorism’ in an attempt to delegitimize the rebellion against Indian military occupation of Kashmir and subsequently normalize it; usage of such terms only reflects the frustration of Indian state. The fact remains that its cross-border resistance, a resistance that cuts through the illegal line and an illegal border thrust upon the people of Kashmir.

Kashmiris don’t recognize that border, the ugly fact that the border exists is only an example of the brutality of occupation and people here resist against that occupation and its manifestations every day. The language of occupiers needs to be unequivocally rejected and replaced by the language of resistance.


Tajamul Islam is from Bandipora, Kashmir and is pursuing Ph.D. in English Literature. Mudasir Ali Lone is from Pulwama, and is pursuing M.Tech in Computer Science.




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